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Few brands can boast such a monumental legacy as Motorola – one of the original forefathers and titans on the mobile scene. And it’s not just the brick-like phones of the past that contribute to this special status either. You only need to turn the clock back five years or so from now to see the original Moto G at the forefront of a budget smartphone revolution. One that is continuing to this day, compelling manufacturers to constantly push the envelope on what is possible with a budget device.
Of course, financial turmoils, several buyouts, management and business changes later, these historic Motorola glory days appear to be in the past. But even so, Moto lives on and so does the Moto G. Now in its sixth generation and a sprawling family of three – the G6, G6 Plus and last, but not least, the G6 Play.
All that being said, at $200, the latter can’t really hope for the instant recommendation, many of its predecessors got back in the day. Especially in 2018, with good quality value offers flying in left and right and seriously mounting competition from the likes of Xiaomi, Huawei and even a resurrected Nokia.
Motorola Moto G6 Play
- Body: Plastic back; 154.4×72.2x9mm; 175 grams; p2i water repellent nano coating on some markets
- Screen: 5.7-inch, 18:9, HD+, IPS LCD, MAX Vision
- Rear Camera: 13MP, f/2.0 lens; Secondary 5MP; LED flash; 1080p@30fps video recording
- Front Camera: 8MP, 1080p@30fps video recording; LED selfie flash
- Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 430, octa-core Cortex-A53 1.4GHz
- Memory: 3/4GB RAM, 32/64GB, dedicated microSD slot for up to 128GB expansion
- OS: Android 8.0 Oreo
- Battery: 4,000mAh, Turbo Charge 15W
- Connectivity: Optional Dual SIM (4G), Bluetooth 4.2, GPS/GLONASS, Dual-band (some markets) Wi-Fi a/b/g/n, microUSB
- Misc: Fingerprint reader on back
However, don’t do kicking the Moto G6 Play to the side quite so hastily. The proverbial runt in the Moto G litter still has a lot going for it, besides a legendary reputation. Lenovo managed to cram a massive 4,000 mAh battery, inside the 9mm thin handset and even throw in snappy 15W fast charging support in the mix.
Just like its bigger sibling, the G6 Play has an extra-tall Max Vision display. It’s even complete with rounded corners, for a truly contemporary look. All the while, the Moto G6 Play remains a lot truer to the original Moto G spirit than the rest of the family.
A clean front, with no controls and only on-screen navigation and a the familiar “M” dimple on the back, make for a rather classic experience, that long-time fans of the series might actually prefer. Of course, that’s also complimented by the traditional Vanilla approach to Motorola‘s Android ROMs. Another integral and well-known part of the Moto G mix.
Join us on the following pages, as we explore the new, yet familiar Moto G6 Play in more detail.
Back in the day, the Motorola Moto G had a pretty clear angle going for it. It was the go-to, budget and vanilla Android device of choice for many. Since then, things have become a bit more complicated within the Motorola lineup. Now, there’s a sprawling Moto E family, a growing Moto C and even a Moto E, all filling up the proverbial nooks and crannies of the budget niche as best they can.
While choice is hard to complain about, this new-found market saturation and segmentation do require some involved choices on the user’s end. Thankfully, for the most part, the Moto G6 Play brings a balanced mix of design and features to the table. Just like its older predecessors, the G6 Play is plastic all around and it still works just as well.
There are plenty of advantages to using the relatively light and less dent-prone material. Lenovo has even put in the extra effort to coat the central frame in a metal-like fashion. We’ve seen more believable finishes out there, but still, a good effort.
In place of the more traditional unibody approach, Motorola decided to go for a modern look this time around and a glossy, curved back surface. Naturally, just like the rest of the body, it’s plastic as well, but actually does a pretty convincing job of imitating metal.
This could potentially spell out trouble if you tend to bang and slap your phone around a lot. Plus, chances are you’ll never get to see the surface fingerprint-free from the moment you first pick up the Moto G6 Play. Still, it does make for a decent hand feel.
On a more positive note, the signature Motorola splash-resistant nano coating on the electronics inside is still part of the mix. We are kind of hesitant to get the phone deliberately wet to test it out. But then again, that’s missing the point entirely. It’s just meant to be the extra piece of mind in case of rainy weather or an accidental splash of water.
In many ways, the Moto G6 Play has a traditional setup on the front – no capacitive navigation keys or fingerprint reader, a fairly wide bottom chin, with the entire surface covered by an undisclosed version of Gorilla Glass.
At the same time, however, the new Moto G look is trendier than ever, mostly thanks to an extra-tall, 18:9, LCD panel, shared by all three siblings. It even has rounded corners, in keeping with the trends of the day. Just like the regular Moto G6, the G6 Play gets a decently sized 5.7-inch display – fairly large for a “Play” device.
The only real difference in the display department between the two devices is the resolution – it’s 720 x 1440 pixels on the G6 Play. However, fewer pixels mean less strain on the GPU for on-screen rendering task. A bonus that is sure to shine through in the benchmark section of the review.
Like we mentioned earlier, the curved back side of the Moto G6 Plus is plastic and thus not necessarily the most sturdy surface out there. We would definitely recommend using the provided case, which also offers the bonus of not having to deal with the almost unnatural amount of dirt and grease the back accumulates.
The camera module protrudes a bit, but it’s nothing major. One would hope so, considering the G6 Play is 9mm thick. It has this watch dial effect going for it and the lack of a second camera module allowed Motorola to go for a vertical arrangement. So, there are no shocked and surprised smiley configurations on this one.
Right underneath the familiar circular camera module is an even more familiar and traditional “M” dimple. Long-term fans will remember the little signature detail was mostly for show back in the day. Now, it also doubles as a home for the fingerprint reader. Getting the dimple once again looks retro fancy in just the right way. Resting your index finger there during calls feels right.
The fingerprint reader itself is pretty reliable, but not exactly what we would consider speedy. It is more versatile than before now that Motorola can use it as an authentication to manage and auto-fill passwords in apps and websites and even log-on to Windows devices.
There’s not a lot to mention about the sides of the Moto G6 Play. The bottom is almost entirely empty, housing only the dated microUSB port and the main microphone. So, where are the speakers then you ask? Well, turns out the phone only has one and it’s the earpiece. It’s pretty quiet as well, but more on that later.
The top is equally barren, with a pair of holes – one for the secondary, noise-canceling microphone and the other the tried and true 3.5mm audio jack. The left-hand side has a single cut-out for the card tray. Motorola could have done a better job slicing it out and then dampening it since it doesn’t really sit flush and rocks in place a little bit when nudged. However, these are all petty complaints that get dwarfed by the fact that the tray has three whole slots (two in the Single SIM models). Two for SIM cards and a dedicated microSD one. That means you don’t have to choose between another phone line and memory – always a plus in our book.
All the buttons sit pretty high up on the right side of the device. Perhaps a bit too high for comfort, if you have smaller hands. Other than that, they are nice and clicky and well-defined. The power button, while on the slim side, even has an edged pattern going for it, so its very easy to feel around.
Overall, as far as controls go, no real complaints. It seems Motorola has handled the transition to a new extra-tall aspect ratio pretty well.
Extra-tall displays are an increasingly common sight on budget devices nowadays. Even though the new aspect ratios typically leave you with less horizontal real estate, it is still hard to complain or argue against the practical benefits of more vertical room for most everyday tasks. Especially, when the deal does not include a notch.
Users looking to same a few bucks from the regular Moto G6 won’t have to sacrifice on screen diagonal at all.
The Play does come with a slight bump down in resolution. But, 720 x 1440 pixels and a density rating of 282ppi is still pretty decent for an entry-level phone.
|Display test||100% brightness|
|Black, cd/m2||White, cd/m2||Contrast ratio|
|Motorola Moto G6 Plus (Max Auto)||0.564||776||1376|
|Motorola Moto G6 Plus||0.418||610||1459|
|Motorola Moto G5S (Max Auto)||0.415||582||1402|
|Xiaomi Redmi 5 Plus||0.548||555||1013|
|Motorola Moto G6 Play (Max Auto)||0.419||554||1321|
|Xiaomi Mi A1||0.351||551||1570|
|Huawei P Smart||0.356||531||1492|
|Samsung Galaxy A3 (2017) max auto||0||518||∞|
|Xiaomi Redmi 5||0.378||503||1331|
|Nokia 6 (Global version)||0.364||484||1330|
|Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) Max Auto||0||482||∞|
|Motorola Moto G6 Play||0.339||476||1404|
|Huawei Honor 7X||0.236||458||1941|
|Motorola Moto G5S||0.266||415||1560|
|Samsung Galaxy A3 (2017)||0||408||∞|
|Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017)||0||348||∞|
The IPS LCD panel Moto managed to acquire and fit inside the G6 Play budget is decent, if not particularly impressive. Under normal conditions, its brightness tops off at 476 nits, with respectable enough contrast. Max Auto allows it to shine at up to 554 nits, at the cost of some contrast.
The Moto G6 Play offers a less than stellar experience under strong sunlight, but it’s still usable in most cases.
On a more positive note, color accuracy is surprisingly good, if a few conditions are met. In it’s default mode, the whites on the G6 Play screen have a distinct blue hue. Switching between the Standard and Vivid color modes does little to correct that. The maximum deltaE sits at 6.4, with a maximum of 13.3 in the blue.
However, setting the color temperature from the default setting to Warm does yield tangible results. This way, you can get the color deviation down to a respectable average deltaE of 3.8 and a maximum of 6.5. Almost what we would consider color-accurate.
Moto G6 Play Battery Life
At 9mm thick, the Motorola Moto G6 Play is quite a chunky phone, no question about it. Still, it does compensate for it’s girth, at least to some extent, with a large 4,000 mAh battery. Sure, you could justifiably argue that a lot of the juice end up kind of wasted on the inefficient 28nm Snapdragon chipset. Undoubtedly, something newer, like the Snapdragon 450 would do a better job, with its 14nm node. Failing that, the older and now likely more affordable Snapdragon 625 is tried and true and still a solid choice.
But, we might be getting a bit too picky. The Snapdragon 430 (non-US) review unit, we tested at the office still did a solid job, stretching the 4,000 Mah battery pack to its full extent.
It scored an overall endurance rating of 92 hours – more than respectable.
Looking at the particular numbers in detail, Motorola appears to have done a bang-up optimization job all-around. The near-vanilla Android OS definitely helps a fair bit and as a result, the Moto G6 Play easily breaks the 200-hour barrier in standby.
Even with its older 28nm development process, the Snapdragon 430 and its X6 LTE modem, in particular, manage to clock in over 30 hours of call time. Google’s Chrome browser and File app/video player don’t disappoint either. Both manage to keep pushing content on the HD+ display for over 14hours on a single charge. Overall, while the Moto G6 Play is a bit on the chunky side, it feels quite comfortable away from a power outlet for prolonged periods of time.
Motorola was also considerate enough to include support for its own Turbo power fast charging standard in the Moto G6 Play. It is actually one of the cheapest phones out there, with quick top-off support.
The Moto G6 Play is, theoretically capable of sucking in power at up to 15W. However, we can’t really confirm is a compatible Turbo Power charger will be provided in the box. Package contents frequently differ from market to market and Lenovo has a pretty bumpy track record in this area. So, the best way to go about it is to check with your local retailer of choice.
Motorola was definitely generous in the battery department, but the loudspeaker setup is a whole other story. The Moto G6 Play only has a single speaker – the earpiece, above the display. It is powered to pump out some volume and that’s about it.
|Speakerphone test||Voice, dB||Pink noise/ Music, dB||Ringing phone, dB||Overall score|
|Samsung Galaxy J3 (2016)||64.1||65.3||68.5||Below Average|
|Motorola Moto G6 Play||62.6||68.0||71.0||Average|
|Motorola Moto G6 Play (Dolby audio)||66.1||70.0||76.2||Good|
|Xiaomi Redmi 5||66.1||68.4||82.1||Good|
|Huawei P Smart||65.9||70.8||85.8||Very Good|
|Huawei Honor 7X||66.4||71.1||85.1||Very Good|
|Motorola Moto G5S||76.1||72.7||81.0||Excellent|
|Sony Xperia L2||67.4||72.2||91.6||Excellent|
|Motorola Moto G5S Plus||91.5||74.9||86.9||Excellent|
The G6 Play is a bit quiet, especially in its default mode, with the audio equalizer turned off. Speaking of which, it’s a bit odd that Motorola decided to provide a really in-depth audio equalizer, for the single, underwhelming speaker. It even bears the Dolby audio branding.
Still, we can’t complain too much, unlike most smartphone audio tuning suit, this one did not reduce the overall output volume. On the contrary, it increased it slightly, while also managing to open up the soundstage noticeably. If configured correctly, that is.
If you spend enough time tweaking the sliders and toggles, for your content of choice, you can actually achieve tangible results, like a clearer voice in movies or richer simulated bass, if that’s your thing.
Motorola Moto G6 Play matched the splendid clarity of its Plus sibling in the active external amplifier part of the test. Its loudness fell seriously short though, giving away its lower standing.
Loudness remained below average when we hooked up our headphones too, but the clarity was downright impressive. The Moto G6 Play delivered a performance that would be worthy of a device with a much higher price tag. Unless you have high impedance headphones and the volume is actually a deal-breaker, you really can’t wish for much more than that.
|Test||Frequency response||Noise level||Dynamic range||THD||IMD + Noise||Stereo crosstalk|
|Motorola Moto G6 Play||+0.06, -0.03||-89.0||86.6||0.0052||0.019||-87.3|
|Motorola Moto G6 Play (headphones)||+0.06, -0.03||-90.5||87.1||0.0054||0.028||-77.3|
|Motorola Moto G6 Plus||+0.00, -0.03||-93.6||93.5||0.0050||0.011||-94.6|
|Motorola Moto G6 Plus (headphones)||+0.02, -0.02||-93.5||93.4||0.0067||0.033||-81.0|
|Oppo F7||+0.01, -0.10||-92.5||92.7||0.0019||0.0077||-91.2|
|Oppo F7 (headphones)||+0.50, -0.20||-91.4||91.8||0.0079||0.402||-51.5|
|Nokia 6 (2018)||+0.10, -0.20||-37.5||80.4||0.0018||4.735||-93.3|
|Nokia 6 (2018) (headphones)||+0.05, -0.03||-94.3||90.2||0.0027||0.019||-58.6|
|Nokia 7 Plus||+0.02, -0.31||-38.8||81.7||0.0013||4.690||-95.9|
|Nokia 7 Plus (headphones)||+0.25, -0.23||-93.3||90.4||0.0045||0.227||-53.9|
|Honor View 10||+0.02, -0.01||-92.6||92.6||0.0021||0.012||-94.4|
|Honor View 10 (headphones)||+0.17, -0.03||-92.0||92.1||0.0023||0.092||-52.8|
The Motorola Moto G6 Play was never meant to be a performance powerhouse in any way, shape or forms. Still, in 2018, we are finally a bit past the days when you had to take anything you could get for $200, or so. That being said, we approached the Snapdragon 430, 3GB RAM review unit with clear expectations of a smooth overall experience. Definitely not unreasonable, especially considering the near-stock Moto Android ROM.
To our surprise, however, the Moto G6 Play experiences some noticeable performance dips, even when dealing with everyday tasks.
Frankly, it’s an odd position to find a current Moto G device in. While far from ideal, we know for a fact that the Snapdragon 430 has plenty of power to drive a fluent UI experience, if nothing else. The raw performance numbers out of the Moto G6 Play indicate the same as well. So, we can only surmise, the occasional hiccups and dropped animation frames while browsing the menus and opening apps are due to some odd optimization issue. Hopefully one that gets cleared up quickly.
Before we move on to the actual scores, it is worth noting that certain US carriers and retailers will be offering the Moto G6 Play with an even less-powerful Snapdragon 427 chipset. You should probably stay away from it, if possible. It only has four Cortex-A53 cores and the GPU is downgraded from the Adreno 505 to the Adreno 308. Definitely not ideal.
Speaking of the CPU, the non-US Moto G6 Play, we are testing, has eight Cortex-A53 cores at its disposal, clocked at 1.4 GHz. While that overall configuration is pretty popular in the budget market segment, 1.4 GHz is a pretty low clock.
Single 13MP camera
Unlike its two bigger siblings, the Moto G6 Play doesn’t get the privilege of a fancy dual-camera setup. It is stuck with a single 13MP snapper, with 1.12µm pixels. It sits behind an f/2.0 lens. Nothing really too spectacular. There are still a couple of extras sprinkled in, like phase detection autofocus and a surprisingly decent EIS stabilization for video.
While on the subject, not only does the stabilization work surprisingly well, but it even comes with a real-time preview during capture.
Just like the stills, the 1080p clips, themselves, are actually quite usable. These get recorded in a standard AVC, plus AAC stream, inside an MP4 file, with a bit rate of about 18 Mbps and stereo audio. A bit more detail wouldn’t hurt and the same goes for the dynamic range. Still, we can’t nitpick too much.
The original Moto G from some 5 years ago was a real game-changer in terms of value and an easy instant recommendation. A lot has changed since then. The legendary American brand has been changing ownership quite a bit over the last few years. Internal turmoil and brand-identity aside, the sprawling budget scene the phone launches on looks quite different in 2018.
There are a lot more options to explore. Perhaps even too many. Even Motorola‘s own lineup now features a trio of Moto G devices. And that’s on top of other viable affordable devices, like the Moto E line. Which brings us to our first couple of contenders – the Moto G5S and G5S Plus. Sure, neither features a trendy new 18:9 display, but other than that, specs-wise the Moto G5S is an almost perfect match to the G6 Play. Its bigger brother – the G5S Plus is even more alluring, complete with a much more-potent and power-efficient Snapdragon 625 chipset, as well as a dual 13MP camera setup.
Samsung has some well-rounded devices up on offer around the $200 mark as well. The budget Galaxy J7 (2017) pairs a sizeable battery, with another battery-efficient chipset – the Exynos 7870 and a Super AMOLED panel – sharp, colorful and also easy on the battery. There are some interesting accompanying options as well, like the option for the more compact and slightly more premium Galaxy A3 (2017) instead. Or even saving a few bucks with the older J7 (2016), which still offers most of the models highlights.
The resurrected Nokia has been soaking up quite a bit of attention lately and rightfully so. HMD is putting a lot of effort into build quality and producing reasonably priced devices with a great bill of material and overall durability. The original Nokia 6 from last year seems to match the Moto G6 Play almost spec to spec even down to the overall clean approach to Android. Price-wise the two aren’t far apart either.
Moto G5S Plus • Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017) • Nokia 6 • Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro • Huawei Honor 9 Lite
Of course, we can’t glance over Xiaomi’s constantly growing lineup for affordable models. The trendy Chinese brand has become amazingly quick in adopting new tech in its products. The most obvious competitor to the Moto G6 Play would be the Android One running Mi A1. A Snapdragon 625 and dual camera setup make for a more potent hardware platform for pretty much the same price tag. The soon-to-hit-markets Mi A2 looks even more enticing but might be a little outside the budget. Currently, the Redmi Note 5 Pro seems to offer the best value for your buck, with a trendy exterior and pretty potent internals.
Last, but not least, Huawei and its Honor sister-brand have a stable finger on the pulse of the market and some really competitive devices to offer. You can pretty much match the Moto G6 Play spec for spec with the new Huawei Y7 Prime (2018) and potentially even save a few bucks in the process. However, devices like the Huawei P smart and the Honor 9 Lite arguably have even more value to offer, within roughly the same budget.
It’s really hard to make any noticeable dent in today’s highly-competitive and overcrowded budget smartphone scene. Adapting as you go seems to be the only path to survival and Motorola has been doing plenty of it lately. The company’s excellent reputation backed by Lenovo’s distribution network helps it along its way too.
- Combines a classic Moto control layout with a trendy new extra-tall display on the cheap
- There’s a dedicated MicroSD cars slot on the SIM tray, so you can have to SIM cards and and SD at the same time.
- Display has decent brightness, contrast and sunlight legibility. It is surprisingly color-accurate, when set propperly. The only thing you are really loosing compared to the regular G6 is resolution.
- Great battery endurance at 92 hours. Quick top-offs, thanks to Turbo Power charging support, up to 15W.
- Good, clean audio quality through the 3.5mm jack. A bit quiet, though.
- A fine blend of vanilla Android and just the right amount of useful proprietary customizations
- Good photo and video quality. Full-featured manual mode. LED selfie flash. EIS for video is a great little bonus and it works surprisingly well.
- No notification LED and MotoDisplay isn’t quite like an always on display (not that it automatically renders the LED redundant)
- The speaker is not particularly loud or clear. Audio output though the 3.5mm jack is also on the quiet side.
- Some noticeable performance dips (skipped transition animation frames and micro-stutters) are observable even while just browsing the UI. Likely an optimization issue that should get fixed, since the Snapdragon 430 can drive a smoother experience.
- Video capture is limited to 1080p@30fps.
- The selfie fixed focus sweet spot is a bit distant, which resuts in the faces getting blurry at times.
Despite the few minor issues we found with the Moto G6 Play, it definitely won’t steer you wrong. It’s a dependable phone with a nice feature set. However, in this price range you can (and should!) get hardware that provides hiccup-free performance. So if you shop around a bit, there is more value to be had elsewhere. We hope Lenovo sorts things out with the Moto G6 Play performance, otherwise as things stand right now, it’s hard for it to get the recommendation it deserves.